Chapter 8
Importance of Coal as Fuel for Future Power Generation


Predictions have been made about the worldwide remaining fuel reserves. The 1992 Madrid World Energy Council predicted that fuels will be available for the following number of years:

• Coal 250 Years

• Fuel oil 45 Years

• Natural gas 60 Years

• Nuclear fuel 3300 Years

This prediction considered only the recoverable fossil fuels and the nuclear fuel, including present recycling technology. Not everyone will agree on these results since additional fuel resources will be found; however, this argument can be made for all fuels. It has been estimated that about 5 times more coal and 21/2 times more natural gas resources could possibly be found in the United States. When searching for additional fossil fuel in the United States, oil shale would be the second in line after coal. It is important to realize that fuel resources are limited and that coal and nuclear fuel reserves are much larger than oil and natural gas reserves.

The proven worldwide recoverable fossil fuel energy reserve was estimated to be 30,425 Quads (1 Quad = 1015 Btu), 67% of it being coal, 18.5% crude oil, and 14.2% natural gas, as illustrated in Figure 8-1. This world fossil energy reserve includes 5896 Quads in the United States, which accounts to 19.4% of the world reserve. However, the coal portion of the U.S. energy reserve is 94.3% and only 2.8% are natural gas and 2.4% crude oil. This clearly shows the importance of using coal as the major fossil fuel supply for power generation in the United States. Even though the total U.S. energy reserves were only 19.4% of the worldwide reserves, the coal reserves in the United States account for 5560 Quads or 27.4% of the world's 20,300-Quads coal reserves.

The fuel selection for power generation and reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) discharge in the United States are of utmost importance. Nowadays, 25.8% of the world's electric energy is generated and used in the United States. The present trend is to build gas turbine power plants mostly as combined cycle units burning natural gas. Burning natural gas in a combined cycle power plant generates electric power with a minimum on specific emissions and CO2 discharge of any fossil-fired power plant concept. However, the natural gas reserves are limited and scarce supply generally leads to high costs.

  • Coal-Fired Power Plants
  • Natural Gas-Fired Power Plants
  • Nuclear Power Plants
  • Renewable Power-Generation Facilities
  • Oil-Fired Power Plants

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